Saturday, January 8, 2011

New Year Levee

New Year’s Day is traditionally the day Prince Edward Island organise New Year Levees. The first levee was held in Canada in 1646 by the Governor of New France. It was originally used by fur traders to pay their respects to the government representative on New Year’s Day. This was then developed by the Canadian provinces to allow residents to meet the Lieutenant Governor and provincial dignitaries. In most provinces the levees have become more subdued but not on PEI where it was expected that thousands would attend the events. This was our first visit to a levee and we were accompanied by our very good friends Brenda and Murray. Here is a summary of the day with a description of each visit, including the food and drink supplied.
We had printed the schedule of events and had identified five locations we wanted to visit. The first began at 10am at the Lieutenant Governor’s residence, Fanningbank. Fortunately it was only a short walk from Number One Grafton Street. The whole event was an absolute pleasure. We had to wait in line for a short while before entering the building but everyone was very patient, chatting and wishing each other a Happy New Year.

Inside the building we were entertained by a string ensemble and were introduced to the Lieutenant Governor and her husband.

We then had a glass of cranberry juice mixed with sparkling wine and a piece of cake. The choices were fruit cake and gum drop cake (yes that is sponge cake with gum drops inside!). After a photo we were then off to City Hall.

At City Hall we met the Mayor of Charlottetown and all the councillors for each ward of Charlottetown. The queue this time was much shorter and in addition to a glass of wine we had some very good cheese and crackers.

Next we drove up to the University of Prince Edward Island to meet outgoing Vice Chancellor and the new Vice Chancellor. It was our first visit to the university and we were very impressed with the facilities. There was quite a long queue but at least this time it was indoors. The sandwiches were quite good and refreshments were non alcoholic which was probably appropriate.

The next visit was due at 3pm at the Bishop’s Palace but we arrived a little early and were expecting to queue. But this was not necessary as they had started early and we were able to walk straight into the palace. This photo was taken as we left.

We were introduced to the Bishop of Prince Edward Island and then had a glass of very nice sherry from the Niagara area in Ontario and some fruit cake.

We then had some spare time so we visited St. Dunstan’s Basilica next door to the Bishop’s Palace. The architecture is quite beautiful.

Finally we drove to the Confederation Centre for the final levee with the Premier of Prince Edward Island.

This was probably the most popular levee but the queue moved quite quickly and we were introduced to the Premier and members of the Government of PEI. Each guest also had their photo taken with the Premier.

The levee ended with drinks (non alcoholic again) and snacks including an interesting ‘potato martini’ made from mashed potato, cheese, bacon, sour cream and green onions.

Overall the day was a wonderful experience; it was so typical of PEI to continue such a tradition with such charm. It was also refreshing to see public officials spending time meeting their electorate.